In case you didn’t realize, the French love Thomas Voeckler. Not like, not kinda affectionate, not favorable impression but swooning love, like a small version of the Beatles in the 60’s.
The French embrace their cyclists comme des fous. Last year it was Chava, Sylvain Chavanel, coming back from a horrific crash in Liege-Bastogne-Liege where he used the tarmac for major facial rearrangement to win two stages in the Tour and slip on the maillot jaune.
Chavanel has the one requisite quality all French cycling fans prize above all: panache. It’s one of those swashbuckling, devil-may-care combativite that epitomizes the courageous rider. He doesn’t even have to win because pananche is worth far more than crossing the line first.
Thomas Voeckler, sometimes dubbed the French Housewives favorite — which we assume means he likes to vacuum a lot — also reeks with panache like he dumped a bottle of Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Vetiver cologne all over his jersey and bike.
The crowds swarm him with shouts of “bon courage” and “allez Thomas” and “voulex-vous coucher avec moi ce soir.” Well, maybe not the last thing unless they’re fans of Lady Marmalade.
Voeckler is a smart rider always looking for his opportunities. Like anyone trying to pull off a stage win in the Tour de France, he picks his stages. The difference is, he actually goes for it. Maybe somehow a little Vinokourov blood got mixed with the Frenchman’s but the man likes to attack.
That’s what the French love about Voeckler, a torrid romance that began back in the 2004 Tour de France,. In stage five he was in a lucky break — Voeckler has since proven he Makes His Own Luck — that put 12 minutes into the peloton and delivered a fresh maillot jaune to wear.
He then proceeded against all odds and prognostications to defend the jersey all the way through the Pyrenees with no other than Lance Armstrong attacking him without mercy. (Like the way Jeff Novizky is going after the legend of Lance right now.) The young, fresh-faced Voeckler stayed in yellow for 10 days — a huge supply of panache he’s been enjoying ever since.
He’s a national hero and generally once you’re in that category, you’re in for life barring a murder of child pornography charge.
He may fail (gloriously) he may fall short (avec panache) he may be caught a few kilometers from the line (quel tristess) but that won’t stop him from trying. Voeckler tageted stage 9 and took care of le bizness and got himself another yellow jersey.
Now surprisingly, people in France are pretty pleased about that.